Reach

This is my granddaddy’s right hand.  At one time, my small infantile body sat cradled in it.  Before I was born, it gripped baseball bats and captured baseballs in mid air. It squared and doubled onto itself ready for various fights and spats during and on the way back from school.  It was unmatched in victory.  In my granddaddy’s boyhood, it picked through Alabama cotton plants, never lonely of soil and calluses–never lonely until pay day.

My grandfather once recounted to me that to receive his small pay, he would have to bend his torso parallel to the ground, eyes downcast, and arm outstretched.  Only then would my granddaddy’s right hand be lonely as it quivered, upturned in the Alabama sun waiting for metal coins to fall into it.  Even when the coins were safely given, my granddaddy’s young back would stay bent and still as a tree branch in the eve of a storm. In this position my granddaddy would slowly back away from his master because temptation was an eye flicker away.   It was not uncommon for the master to bring his wife scantily clad as to dangle a dangerous seduction–a reason to retract pay and charge punishment, even death.  My granddaddy avoided any such charge.  He avoided the charge of looking upon a white woman.  He avoided the charge of looking upon white flesh.  He reached only with his right hand and nothing more.

I remembered this account in the recent eve of Philando Castile’s murderer’s acquittal.  In the dashcam video his murderer asked for identification.  I wonder if Castile’s life would have been spared if he would have given his license and registration in the way my granddaddy received his pay.  I wonder if is his murderer’s fear would have been quelled before a black man folded and small–his outstretched hand quivering with what had been asked of him. Is this the level of compliance needed to pacify bodies–white and  brown– of fear?

Reader, Castile’s skin sounds of fear only because you and his murderer didn’t realize you both had been screaming the whole time. What are you scared off?

There is something inside that fortress you call “proper behavior”, “proper suspicion”, and “instinct” that stinks of your own faulty insecurities.  Your temporal discomfort and your overflowing spout of trembling assumptions is the lasting White American justification to put a person to death.  It was enough to put Castile to death.  His murderer was reaching with his right hand long before Castile had time to reach for his requested identification, for his daughter’s tearful face, or for his girlfriend hand.  Insecurity and fear is not a crime, but it should never be enough to allow an officer who deliberately shot a man acting within the law seven times to be vindicated in the court of law.  Your fear, your suffocating ignorance, your comfort should never be reason enough to snuff out a life and say that it was justice. If so, then your blessed American justice is a function of your weakness.  It is something I have no trust in or respect for.  Castile was given a request, but his murderer was too consumed by fear to receive it.  Reader, do not simply ask for something you are too frail of mind to handle, buck up and reach!

My grandfather was forced to reach for a lot in his life to compensate for the widespread defective mindset called the American Dream.  But dreams are dreams because they aren’t real.  Wake up and stop killing us.

Red Scarf and Patent Leather Shoes

Alright reader.  I wrote in my journal last night that for these blog posts, I don’t always want to have the tone of a fortune cookie.  So for this post I want to get a little personal, pull more from my own bag of tricks so to speak.  I don’t expect a large audience to actually read my posts anyways, so I am not taking much a risk here.  So… reprieve, huh?

Life is one long reprieve.  From the time I breathed my stuttered breath on this earth my body–my physical keeper–has been counting down until the end.  I am living the final countdown.  Because life is a long stretch of time, I don’t really feel the reprieve I am experiencing.  I have adjusted and grown accustomed.  I think I felt it more when was younger, honestly.  In childhood everything is so new and fresh and stark.  If it was bright day outside, and my grandparents told me I couldn’t go outside, I felt so attacked. However, the reprieve I experienced directly as a kid involved the mundane and the taboo subject of corporal punishment:

I forgot the red headscarf and those damn patent leather shoes.  Both could go to the deuce in my young opinion, but my opinion had no merit in her eyes.  She was going to whoop me.  She was to lay hands on me in a way not of God.  She was going to lay hands on me in the way souls are restrained in hell.  She was going to wield the whip of truth upon me.  It was a clear telephone chord, a tool for communication purposes.  Each strike was as if to say, “Feel pain, but do not cry.  If you cry, more strikes are given.  Tell me the truth, but only the truth that makes sense to me.”

“Alexandria where is your headscarf and those shoes.  You know you gotta wrap your head up at night, and I want to wear those shoes for church tomorrow!”  I could hear her say.

I would pathetically mumble that I had forgotten them at my grandmother’s house.

Her eyes would close in on me like a target, before I’d know it my cries of protest would be fruitless. “I am tired of your excuses, Alexandria.” It would have been over.

This time, she asked the question.  I fell on my knees in front of her in the kitchen, tears bursting from my eyes.

“Please, oh gawd!  Please don’t whoop me!  I just forgot it, but its the truth. PLEASE–”

I would have continued, but I heard her laughing.  She thinks its funny.  What?  This is good?  Yes, this is good. I, unbenownst to me, had amused her with my desperate attempts to not lose one of my lives that night.  I was saved a beating.  I gained reprieve from the queen.

Surviv[ed]

I think there is an idea that survial comes after some kind of relief.  Like, “Oh, that hurricane destroyed everything she had, but thank god she survived.”  The storm is over and we can all walk away.  There’s relief in that, but it isn’t always so.  I think survival is existing with something pivotal being taken away from you. You compensate, doing without.  Sometimes it is becoming the storm—striking before anyone else can. Sometimes it is living with a wound that you don’t know how to heal. Sometimes its living with the storm inside you, so you wake up knowing that it isn’t over.

 

 

Little Flames

She knew what it was to hate oneself.

A look in the mirror was painful and the beauty she possessed seemed too much a weight…like chocolate too rich to enjoy. The bitterness she harbored was too great.

No one knew what the darkness hid. She was cold but somehow knew that the flames of hell were playfully dancing and holding hands around her ankles. Each step forward was a weak objection to their plans but they only held tighter and laughed their flames brighter so that her face contained beastly shadows rarely anyone saw.

“Dance with us!” they cried. Pitifully they chided. Their ugly smiles were endearing to her, they did not realize the demons they were in her eyes. Their dance and their song was their fun and they only wanted to share…to play. To play the game that some call life, others call temptation, and others call damnation.

Bridges are better than walls. thanks.

 

I’m thankful for bridges—that they exist so people can walk over them and get to the other side and reach each other. I’m glad that they exist because if not it would just be a bunch of people peering over at each other.  Yelling words that could so easily be blown away by the wind.  Maybe there would be people using telescopes and binoculars to read each others lips. I don’t know.

I’m glad that there are bridges so folks can walk over to the other side and touch each other. Hug other. Love each other.

With bridges the gap simply becomes a crack in the path.

If  we did not have bridges maybe there would still be people who think the brown in my skin exists because I’m dirty.  Maybe the gap would make them think they were never supposed to meet me in the first place for that reason. With bridges, I know that if I hear someone yelling for help or screaming in pain, I can run to help them.  Otherwise, maybe I would assume that the obstacle is evidence enough that they are not my problem.

If there were not bridges we would just have to assume—be content with the stories we tell ourselves to make ourselves satisfied with not fully knowing. Perhaps we do that already.

Little

I watched the boy run in circles and topple over himself, only to do it all over again. My body instinctively jerked many times to stop myself from running to his rescue—down he would fall onto his small hands, but it did not take long for his little legs to straighten out and he would shoot into the crowd, dodging the coaxing arms of his father and other cooing bystanders. How bold. How unaware.

The little boy had no idea, but he provided much needed comic relief and joviality to the internal crescent of the protest. Most everyone held signs expressing their convictions—their faces dimmed and furrowed against the bitter wind. If they did not hold signs they chanted. Fists were outstretched and legs stood as straight as pillars and still the little boy lurched and traveled betwixt them. At times the boy would explore the empty space between the Rush Rhees stairs and the curved arrangement of protestors. He was happy to have the space all to himself.

When did we become so afraid to fall?  When did we become afraid to stand alone in empty spaces?  When we trip and stumble we become embarrassed—wishing to dissociate ourselves from the moment.  Now that we are bigger, we sit  within our chairs.  We log into our media and look at stilled realities that we rarely consider lifting more than a finger for.  We may be hesitant to eventually approach the towering realities that have the power to shape our minds.

We are only bigger because we have grown fuller with the ideas of others.  We have been shown what to think and when reality proves contrary, we are forced to rise.

I was tempted to hold the boy close, to keep him from falling.  Others continued to reach for him, but he would struggle and cry out—his arms would nimbly contort ensuring that his escape was successful.  I wonder if we have forgotten how to fight for our individualism—apart from the clothes we wear or who we choose to love.  I wonder if we have forgotten how to fight for our individual mindfulness. We seem to sacrifice it so easily now that we are bigger.  We are told that college will open up so much to us, but we are content to explore so little of it for the sake of having similar opinions.

 

Signs of A Clouded Mind

Clouds

1.) You wake up (late) and you feel heavy inside.

2.)Your thoughts are scattered and you can’t focus well on one task whether that be cleaning off your desk or picking out your clothes for the day.

3.) You are frustrated easily over the smallest things like your sandals coming off when you’re walking or struggling to turn the handle to the shower.

4.) You feel paranoid.  Like, somehow, the world is working against you.

5.) You criticize yourself, for being human. Why did I message that guy?  Am I needy?  I haven’t worked out in a while…I’m failing…why am I failing? I’m freaking lonely and this sucks.

6.) The negative thoughts pour through your brain and you try to stop them up with funny YouTube videos, nosing about through your Facebook feed, watching some Netflix.  You become discontent when you realize that you don’t do a very good job at distracting yourself, from yourself.

7.) You go to bed late because you are not convinced that the internet, for once, doesn’t have the answer. 1 am rolls by and the Buzzfeed channel hasn’t said anything you couldn’t guess.  2 am gallops by and Jim and Pam’s relationship office relationship has you feeling a bit green inside. 3 am saunters in and you are doing intense research on how the bullet journaling system could work for you…but then you slowly recoil at the sight of numerous layouts, stationary flair (that you don’t have), the apparent necessity for pricy notebooks that have graph paper inside of them, and colored writing utensils that make a ballpoint options look pathetic.

8.) You reflect and decide to be honest with yourself.  I’m having a sucky day emotionally, but I gotta blog.  I gotta get my camera fixed.  Gotta do laundry. 

And guess what?  Theres a whatever percent chance that tomorrow will be better.